Tag Archives: Star Wars

My Take on “the Five Sci-Fi Films You Must Share with Your Teen”

Yesterday, I read a list on the fantastic web site sciencefiction.com about the five sci-fi films to share with your teen. While the list is a great compilation of the best films of the last fifty years, I could not agree with a single entry on the list. Not one. It’s a list that unfortunately takes personal preference over what an actual teenage human would want to watch or even care to sit through. Here I offer my rebuttal: The five films I would share with any teen to actually get them to love science fiction movies.


Their list: 2001: A Space Odyssey – This movie will likely kill any teenager who tries to watch it with boredom. I myself, a film buff who loves sci-fi more than most, couldn’t get through 2001 when I was a teenager, no matter how hard I tried. The film is simply too complex, too slow, too abstract to show to a teenage mind. They will hate it.

My choice: Akira – If you’re going to confuse the teenage mind with crazy visuals and an abstract ending, I’d recommend Akira. There’s a lot to speculate about the what actually happens, but trust me, teenagers will respond to the young characters trying to find their way in a world that has nothing to offer them much more than they will to apes and astronauts in business suits. Teenagers will also like the anime style they are used to seeing from late nights on Adult Swim and the freaky musical score. Most importantly, the pacing is far more on their level, especially in the first half of the film-as compared to the silent floating spaceports and slow monotone computers of 2001.

Their list: Alien – A great film, yes. No doubt. But a teenage mind will only really grasp onto the gory chest burst and the “old school” creature design. Teens nowadays don’t appreciate the latex costumes and practical effects the way we do. They’ve seen too much computer effects, even of the same alien creatures from this film. They also won’t sniff a whiff of the feminist undertones; they will simply see another monster movie in space. They’re teens, what can you do?

My choice: John Carpenter’s The Thing – All the tension, all the paranoia, all the claustrophobia and dread of Alien, but the effects of the Thing surpass in terms of sheer gore and horror. This film even has its own chestburster scene if that’s what you really wanted your kid to see, but, if you remember, this one is a bit different; in that one dude’s chest opens like a gaping maw and literally eats another dude’s hands before a head falls off, grows spider legs and crawls away. The kids will love it.

Their list: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope – WHY HAVE YOU NOT ALREADY SHOWN YOUR CHILD THIS MOVIE???  What are you waiting for? If your kid is a teenager by the time they see freaking Star Wars, its too late for them. Just abandon hope of making them a geek, because it’ll never happen. You blew it. Kids, both boys and girls, should know all the words to this movie by the time they are ten years old.

My choice: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – This movie rules, but the ear worm scene in the beginning is way too heavy for kids. Trust me. I still get the willies thinking of that scene and I’m 31 years old. But, by the time your kid is a teen, they’ll love Khan’s smooth yet menacing villainous tones and they’ll instantly get the humor behind Captain Kirks infamous “Khaaaaan!” More importantly, they’ll learn everything they need to know about friendship and altruism from Spock’s selfless actions at the climax, and it’s a lesson so dearly needed in our times. (And, yes, Star Trek Into Darkness does a lot of the same stuff but it fails to convey the same emotion or impact.)

Their List: Blade Runner – Again, this is a near perfect movie, one of the best ever to be sure. But, these kids today, they don’t respect the classics like they should. And this one is just a little too… how do I put it? It opens with a conversation about a turtle on its back. Throughout, we are presented with a bunch of creepy animatronic dolls, weird synth jazz music and Harrison Ford (their hero from Star Wars, which they’ve already seen a million times, right?) getting rough with a woman. Not sure that screams “sci-fi is cool” for todays generation.

My choice: Children of Men ­­– I really shouldn’t have to say anything. This is the best sci-fi dystopian film of the last twenty years, hands down. It’s gritty and gripping–from the opening blast, to the long takes of street warfare, to the haunting images of lost art delicately hanging in the background. This amazing film feels more real than anything else on this list,  and it’s one that any teenager can instantly obsess over.

Their list: The Matrix – The author of this list himself starts off this entry with “Let’s get this out of the way: Keanu Reeves is not a good actor and the Wachowskis are not good directors.” Okay, let me stop you there. The Matrix is a cool idea splattered on screen by a slop bucket of a production that never feels real or authentic, and is only further embarrassed by unwatchable sequels. The at-the-time revolutionary bullet dodging effects will be ho-hum to any teen today and the whole thing just feels dated, like the trench coats these “hackers” all wear.

My choice: Dark City – This film is both sublimely directed by Alex Proyas (The Crow), and amazingly acted all around by the likes of Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly and William Hurt, with leading man Rufus Sewell delivering the performance of his career. This one is probably most responsible for my love of sci-fi as a teenager. I saw it when I was 15 and it’s still one of my all time favorites. The film sets such a perfect noir mood in a sinister city that literally bends to the will of mysterious entities. There is not one single minute of Dark City that is not immensely satisfying and unbelievably intriguing. It’s the kind of film that allows your own mind to wander through the black horizons of imagination, searching out that one perfect day at Shell Beach.


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A word on Previews at home

So I just bought a copy of Howl’s Moving Castle. I love this movie. In fact, I’m one of those guys (i.e. nerds) who loves all of Hayao Miyazaki’s films. They’re just so imaginative and filled with amazing animation and compelling stories. I love the airships, the magic, the whole spirit of it. So what’s the problem?

Well, I’ve got no beef with Miyazaki or the film. Both are top notch. But when I put in the DVD and press play, what do I get? A preview-For Howl’s Moving Castle! Wait. What?

But I just put Howl’s Moving Castle in, why are they showing a preview of it? Oh I see, they’re doing one of those, “From the Director of the Academy Award winning Spirited Away comes three other great films.” So we are seeing clips of Kiki”s Delivery Service and something else and this. But I bought this movie. I’m looking at it right now. Why is it one of the three movies I am previewing? I already know about it, because I’m about to fucking watch it.

I hate previews before DVDs or VHS or any of that shit. It’s the worst. One of my favorite parts of watching a movie at home is skipping the previews for movies that have usually been out for a year or ten. So why are you showing me clips from the movie I am trying to watch tonight? It kinda ruins it I think. What if I had Netflixed this movie and had NOT seen it? Then I might watch the previews in whole and know half of the film before I actually watch it!

This isn’t an isolated incident. After watching Howl’s Moving Castle (you should see it if you haven’t) I Netflixed Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. Another classic Miyazaki. I only saw it once and was dying for a second viewing. So I put in the DVD and guess what comes on first? A preview for Nausicaä! ARRGGHH!

I can’t stress enough how I hate this. Why couldn’t the marketing geniuses behind these DVD releases (these are American releases-I’m not blaming Studio Ghibli for this at all) figure it out? Put the Howl’s Moving Castle preview before Nausicca and Nausicca before Howl. That way I can watch my movie without first seeing all the best parts.

It’s like those extended menu selection screens before DVDs. Who thought, “People are going to want to watch a scrolling preview of Lord of the Rings on the their menu before they press play?” It’s absurd. I never would want to sit down, get my shit together for watching something, and meanwhile have a continual montage of the movie I’m about to watch running over and over again. It goes on infinitely, and then if you don’t press play, some of them start playing anyways. What the Fuck?!?! I didn’t tell you to play you little piece of shit.When I want you to play I will goddamn let you know you son of a –

(Calm down Charlie, it’s just modern technology, it doesn’t know any better.)

It’s like, do you remember the VHS tapes of the X-Files? They would put two episodes on a tape and each tape also had a special interview with the creator Chris Carter? Well, for five full minutes they play Chris Carter yammering on and on about absolutely nothing, while they played clips from the very two episodes you were about to watch. Why?

They’d even play the scariest, most intense parts of the episodes. Like in Little Green Men. They play the scene where the alien is standing in the doorway. YOU’RE RUINING THIS FOR US.

It’s just common courtesy. I don’t sit in a dark theater telling the audience the best parts of the film we’re about to see. Only a complete jack ass would do that. Well, video companies, you are complete fucking jack asses.

They would do this before a lot of shows actually, and movies. I can remember special interviews with George Lucas before a VHS edition of Star Wars, complete with the best shit, like Han getting frozen in Carbonite or Luke screaming “That’s impossible.” If I only had five minutes but still wanted to get the whole Empire Strikes Back experience, I’d watch these, but I don’t. I put the tape in to watch the movie, not clips and then the fucking thing. Makes me sick.

They did this with X Men the Animated Series, they did this with Ren and Stimpy. I have old, really old cartoons of Superman and Batman from the 60’s or 70’s and they’re doing it there too. And even if you’re pressing the fast forward button, you can still see it. It’s going by fast, but it’s still there. I can’t ignore it. I have to look away just so the upcoming viewing experienced isn’t sullied by these abominable previews. But if I look away, I won’t know when to stop fast forwarding!  It’s like a circle of Hell. I’m in Dante’s seventh level, constantly having to dodge quick glances in vain hopes of actually starting the film or TV program when it should be started.

You know what format doesn’t have previews? What format doesn’t bother with overly long menu screens and stupid “interviews?” Laserdisc mother fuckers. That’s why it’s the only obsolete viewing format worth having. Go Laserdiscs Go!! I love ya!


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